SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 - Utah) A major step in the fight against cancer here in Utah. The St. Baldrick’s Foundation has awarded a $230,000 grant to Dr. Mike Engel at the Huntsman Cancer Institute.
The grant money will help Dr. Engel and his team continue their work to cure acute myeloid leukemia (AML) in children.
In his office, Dr. Engel keeps a glass owl on his bookshelf. “The owl was given to me from a patient of mine,” said Dr. Engel. “She passed away a few years ago. Her nick-name was ‘The Sparkler.’”
Memories and momentos from past patients, like The Sparkler, help keep Dr. Engel in the lab late at night.
“They provide the reason for coming up here at the end of your day in a clinical setting, to set up an experiment and learn something new,” said Dr. Engel.
The last two years Dr. Engel’s research has focused on AML.
“Kids who have leukemia, their cells are like unruly teenagers,” said Dr. Engel. “They're not obeying the rules. And our job is to find out what rules they're breaking, how they break them, and to force them to obey the rules.”
Something this grant will help Dr. Engel and his team accomplish.
“What drives me is the good that we can hopefully do,” said David Mcclellan, a graduate student with the University of Utah. “It's important to be able to have someone teach you not only the science, but the culture of the science, and the research that he does. He's excellent at what he does.”
It’s a job Dr. Engel says, is a privilege.
“The fundamental problem is the same, these people have a life threatening disease that they shouldn't have,” said Dr. Engel. “And that just can't be allowed to continue.”
Dr. Engel says he's hopeful this research will be helping patients directly within five years.